John Lasseter Defends Cars 2

In a new story in the New York Times, Pixar chief John Lasseter and director of five movies for the studio, defended the studios 2011 release – Cars 2. When asked if he was pressured by the Walt Disney Company to make a sequel in order to boost merchandise sales, Lasseter responded:

“I don’t know what to say about that. Well, I guess I do. It’s not true. It’s people who don’t know the facts, rushing to judge. I recognize my place in the Walt Disney Company, but my job, my focus, my deepest desire is to entertain people by making great movies, and we did that with ‘Cars 2.’”

It turns out Cars 2 made over $550 million at the global box office, that’s better than the original. I’m sure it’s also sold a bunch of merchandise for the mouse house. But at the same time, I still find it very hard to believe that there wasn’t some pressure applied on Pixar to make a sequel to a film that launched billions in merchandise sales. That Lasseter was given free reign to make the film he wanted to on his own terms and timelines I can also believe. I don’t think the two are in conflict, really. Nor does his quote completely deny that there was some pressure. It was probably just more mutual than you might imagine. Lasseter, after all, wants to make more movies and the best way to do that is to make movies that make the company money.

What do you think? Is Lasseter covering for Disney here or was he truly given free reign?

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9 Responses to John Lasseter Defends Cars 2

  1. Ike says:

    I’ve heard more or less the same from a Pixar employee, but with the added bit that in doing the sequels they are helping to raise capital to do the shows like Wall-E, Up, and other more “risky” plots. Basically, they won’t do any movie unless they feel have a story to tell, but if that story can be told with familiar characters then WDC is not as nervous. (my own words)

  2. J says:

    Of course he was pressured into making Cars 2. But they’ll never admit it. I mean how good is it going to look if they openly admit that they made a movie only to sell toys. But there was another reason it was so easy to get Cars 2 into development. Cars is John Lasseters pet-project. It’s his baby, the original was his dream project. So of course he’s a little biased towards it, and jumped at the chance to get back into the directors chair as soon as he could.

    I still have yet to see Cars 2 as I never got around to seeing it in the theatres, so I can’t really comment on the quality of the film. I’ll be buying the dvd in November when it’s released.

    As far as John Lasseter taking on more directing roles, I’m completely against it. He’s a very talented man, but he’s stretching himself so thin I’m afraid we’re going to see more drops in quality along the board if he continues to take on too much. I’d rather he focus on his role at Animation both Disney and Pixar and forgo any Directing duties and his Parks position. Pixar & Disney has such a strong list of talent with him in Executive Producers chair and so involved in all the projects taking place, I think we’d finally see Disney’s resurgence we’ve been waiting for if he’d settle into it and focus purely on the Animation between Pixar and Disney.

    Seeing him at D23 Expo both in 2009 and 2011 he has a great presence and energy. It’s hard not to get excited when around him or hearing him speak. But truth be told, if Cars 2 is the dud people tell me, it’s because he’s stretched himself too thin and wasn’t able to focus on his directing role 100%. If he prefers one role over the other, then he needs to pick the one, stick to it, and leave the others behind.

    • Brian says:

      I agree with most of what you said except that I believe that he’s is really needed in the Parks division. Now, that doesn’t mean he needs to be involved in every decision or seeing where every dollar is spend. Rather, I’d love to see him become more of a steward of the Parks so that we don’t have to see the kind of lack of care being taken with places like WDW.

  3. Carl says:

    Wait a minute — what’s wrong with making money? When the company makes money they later have the money to make the next great Pixar movie. And — since when is entertainment a non-profit, altruistic business? Cars 2 — like other Pixar films — was good for lots of people: kids, parents, movie houses, DVD makers, and the various Disney companies. John Lasseter is — in my view — the new Walt Disney. Walt was incredible at balancing creativity and business and John seems to be also. Give him a break. It’s a business!

  4. Leigh says:

    I read the NYT story, and I was hoping you would weigh in on this, John. I think Lasseter was given free reign. Why would you not give that man free reign? And these studios are here to make money. Nothing is a purely creative enterprise. While the idea behind popping out “Footloose 2011″ to make $50 million is probably not going to work out for Paramount, this one certainly worked for Pixar. The difference: Footloose is failing because it sucks; “Cars 2″ worked because it didn’t. Yes, I still have a hard time swallowing the idea that “Cars 2″ was a dud. I have only heard it from critics and the Disney/Pixar affinity crowd. Obviously the movie-going public loved it, judging by the box office. I’m sure the DVD sales will reflect the same.

  5. Devlin says:

    I hope there was pressure because Cars 2 sucked. It was like something that Dreaworks would’ve put out, what are they on Shrek 42?
    But, I kinda think this was a vanity project for Lasseter, I’ve seen the behind the scenes documentaries with Lasseter waxing poetic on Cars & Cars 2. He goes on about how his dad sold auto parts so he’s had this love of RT. 66 and cars, this means to me that the film was more or less a personal project. The problem is not all of our personal pet projects are interesting, like my neighbors snail collection.

    Cars was fine, but Cars 2? I think a little Mater goes a long way and to have Mater be the focus of the film is like making the wacky neighbor the main character. Imagine if the focus of Seinfeld wasn’t Seinfeld but Kramer. Trust me it would get old fairly quickly.

    Seems like you can either try the risky and difficult work of innovating or you can release more crappy sequels. Hopefully now that Pixar has been totally enveloped in the larger structure won’t lose the ability to innovate. Walt put it best when he said “You can’t top pigs with pigs,” after he was pressured to follow up to The Three Little Pigs (1933) with sequels.

    Though to be fair the Toy Story films obviously broke this rule of thumb, most likely because together they tell a single over arching story line, i.e. the process of growing up.

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  9. Middlebrow says:

    Think what you will, but I think the “flock of sequels” has much to do with the director shortage (with Bird and Stanton on loan) and the ease of making a film that doesn’t require full character design. Novice directors can step up. Lasseter can knock one out. Of course WDC is never going to discourage these sure thing films with little numbers attached.

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